If you think you have got a lot of wanderlust to finish, you need to head to Indonesia. Indonesia, The Emerald of the Equator, is highlighted in many travel itineraries as one of the must-visit destinations for first-time travelers and backpackers alike. With about 270 million people, it is the world’s fourth-most populous country. Indonesia offers an array of outdoor activities, heritage, and cultural sites, exotic landscapes, and everything else in between, which will surely tickle your inner traveler.
What I am going to share with you is undoubtedly one of the best travel guides to Indonesia for first-timers as it will make you want to go on your journey and open your eyes in awe. So pull up your mosquito nets, lace up your hiking boots, and tighten that sarong because it’s time you started planning an adventure to this fascinating country.
Know Before You Go
Passports & Visas
Your passport’s validity needs to be at least six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Most nationalities will be issued a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival, which can be extended by another 30 days at the Indonesian immigration office (this is usually done twice). Before arriving in Indonesia, you can also request a 60-day tourist visa at an embassy or consulate overseas.
The official currency in Indonesia is the Rupiah (IDR). It’s best to bring US dollars or Euro (EUR) on your trip and exchange them at the airport when you arrive in Indonesia. You can also withdraw from ATMs in any major city in Indonesia — they are available 24/7 and dispense cash in Rupiah (IDR).
The official language is Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), but many locals also speak English. Most people in major tourist destinations also speak English fluently. Even so, it’s always fun to learn a few phrases before your visit.
Best Time to Visit
The dry season is truly the best time to visit Indonesia! From May to September, the days are hot, dry, and clear. The weather will be perfect for scuba diving, hiking, and beach days. The wet season in Indonesia runs from October to April, yet it’s still a lovely time to visit. If you don’t mind the rain, you’ll find cheaper hotel rates, cheaper flights, and fewer crowds at the popular attractions. As with any large country, climates vary by location, so always research before you go!
Places to Visit in Indonesia
Dive into Komodo Islands
Diving at the Komodo Islands is considered by many to be a world-class experience. This is a diver’s paradise, with some of the world’s most beautiful reefs and an incredible variety of marine life. Coral is abundant in the warm waters to the north. Whales, manta rays, and an array of stunning species inhabit the cooler southern waters.
Enjoy at Dunia Fantasi
Those familiar with Disneyland may be surprised to see numerous similarities between Jakarta’s Dunia Fantasi. The Niagara Flume and the Halilintar twister are just two of the more than 30 rides found here, along with a Main Street and a Puppet Castle. This is a terrific place to take kids, plus there is a theatre with shows about Indonesia.
Soak up the Sun on the Gili Islands
Located off Lombok’s northwest shore, the stunning Gili Islands comprises three smaller isles: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. No wonder the Gilis are one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist attractions, with white-powdery sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters. Cycling around the islands is one of the best ways to see them, but you can also relax on one of the many gorgeous beaches or snorkel with turtles.
Explore the Temples in Yogyakarta
Java’s cultural and spiritual hub, Yogyakarta, is the gateway to some of Indonesia’s most sacred Hindu and Buddhist monuments. The surrounding countryside is filled with spectacular temple complexes. It is also home to the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, Borobudur (UNESCO World Heritage Site). It tops to-do lists for first-time visitors. Another must-see is the Prambanan Temple, famed for its unique mythical roots and exquisite architecture.
Arrive in Style to Bali
Tourism in Bali remains the most popular of Indonesia’s over 17,000 islands. Whether you’re looking to relax and unwind or are looking for an action-packed vacation, a trip to Bali is a perfect getaway. The island’s rich, luxuriant beauty and distant location have made it a popular place to visit, as well as a sought-after spot for solitude. It is a feast of vibrant colors and textures, a spiritual oasis. Even if the island itself doesn’t have some magical power to soothe your soul, its people certainly will.
There are so many gorgeous spots in Indonesia to visit! Whether it’s outdoor adventures, cultural landmarks, or relaxing beachside resorts, there’s something for everyone. So if you’re visiting for a week or two, don’t miss out on these great spots. What’s more, Indonesia is still relatively inexpensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries—so with a bit of planning and research, you should have no trouble making it a reality.
Must-Try Local Dishes
The assortment of the dishes of Indonesia is great. Indonesian people really know how to cook. They have a wide collection of main courses, but also know how to satisfy your sweet tooth, because they have plenty of delicious snacks, cakes and desserts. Curious? Have a look at these 20 traditional Balinese dishes you must try.
Satay is a popular and adored dish in Indonesian cuisine. It’s seasoned, skewered, and grilled meat with a sauce. Satay is the ultimate culinary indulgence—sinful but utterly enticing! People go to street-side diners, high-end restaurants, and traditional festive banquets because of the enticing aroma and flavor of meat barbecued over an open flame.
Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
One of the most popular and flexible dishes globally is Nasi Goreng, which nearly everyone has enjoyed. You can mix it with vegetables, chicken, beef, fish, or whatever else comes to mind. Nasi goreng is unique because of its keycap, a sweet, thick soy sauce, and acar, a mixture of pickled cucumbers and carrots. Everyone loves this dish because it’s cheap and delicious.
Prepare to be wowed by the king of all curries—to say it is extravagantly delicious is an understatement. Meat chunks that melt in your mouth, properly prepared spices and seasonings, and an unbelievable depth of flavor make beef rendang (a spicy beef meal) one of the best dishes in the world. We get to relish this dish because of the tenderness of the meat because it takes so long to cook. Take a bite and tell the rest of the world how amazing it is.
Nasi uduk is a rice-based Indonesian dish that means “mixed rice” in Betawi. You’ll like this recipe because the rice is cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaves, lemongrass, cloves, and cinnamon. You’llUsing this process, you’ll get a richer, tastier, and more flavorful rice! For many years, this has been a favorite breakfast item and is commonly served with eggs, fried rice noodles, or potato cake. A banana leaf cone is a common pre-packaging method for nasi uduk.
Sweet Martabak is one of our all-time favorite desserts. It’s an Indonesian pancake, but with a twist. It’s crunchy and sweet, making it ideal for a snack. You may find it at any martabak stand or warung (food stall). It’s worth noting that Martabak is only available at night. Anything sweet like chocolate, Nutella, taro, bananas, candy sprinkles, and peanut butter can be topped for this dessert.
Additional Travel Tips
Choose Hostels or Homestays
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner, consider staying in a hostel or homestay. One of the biggest reasons is its low cost. It’s a pretty sweet deal while on vacation. Another benefit of this accommodation is the opportunity to meet new people. You’re also more likely to uncover local secrets and enjoy the “local flavor.”
Get a Local SIM Card
Getting a SIM card is a good idea if you want to be connected the entire time you’re on vacation rather than waiting till you get to your hotel or find a restaurant with WiFi. If you don’t want to overspend, wait until you exit the airport before purchasing a SIM card.
Install Offline Maps
This is a common piece of travel advice, as an Indonesian travel map is essential while visiting the country. It’s a good idea to save offline maps for emergencies. Even in a foreign country where communication may be difficult, it is simple to find one’s way around and arrive at the desired destination.
Use a Transportation App
In Indonesia, there are various ways to get around, but one of the most common is to use a transportation app. Nowadays, multiple apps can help you get from one area to the next. Fortunately, it’s available to use in different provinces. Before your trip, you can prepare by installing the Gojek and Grab apps (the two most popular in Indonesia).
Overall, Indonesia is a massive country that can be overwhelming at first. However, once you get the hang of things, you may wonder how it took you so long to visit in the first place. And hopefully, our travel hacks will help you find ways to enjoy the culture more fully, find more ways to enjoy the fantastic foods that the country has to offer and live life as a warmer, friendlier person who’s easier to connect with. Bon, voyage!